Any new mom knows that getting back to a fitness routine after the birth of a child is tough, but Cleveland's Helen Darling has taken it to a whole other level. Just over a year after giving birth to triplets, the 5-6 Darling is back in action on the hardwood.
When did you start working out after the birth of your triplets?
Six weeks after, but I started bleeding, so I had to take an additional two weeks off. When I was at home, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I would do weights and a half-hour on the Stairmaster. I would play Tuesday and Thursday, and then I would do 20 minutes on the Stairmaster. On the days I didn’t play, I would do the Stairmaster for a half-hour in the morning and a half-hour in the night.
What advice do you have for other recent moms about getting back in shape?
You have to have a focus and when times get hard, you just have to move ahead and force yourself to do it. Just stay focused. Everyone is different. And also, before you do anything, you need to speak with your doctors. Work with them to develop a plan to get back in shape.
How would you describe the role of fitness and exercise in your life?
It’s very important for a professional athlete, but it’s also very important if you’re not an athlete to stay healthy, to stay young, and to help alleviate some of the aging problem you get as you grow older.
What is your favorite exercise for the lower body?
Running. I don’t really like lower body exercises. It helps me get stronger and faster and tone up a little bit.
What is your favorite exercise for the upper body?
I love working on my upper body — biceps, triceps, bench press, pull-ups, chin-ups — I love upper body workouts. I like the definition in my upper body, the appearance.
What is your favorite cardio exercise?
I would choose running because I hate the bike.
How do you work out on your off days during the season?
I don’t. I pretty much relax on my days off, and I’ll come in and shoot. Most days, I’ll come in and shoot.
What do you do to stay in shape during the offseason?
Just play. I really like to get in shape by playing. Sometimes you have to get down-and-dirty and do the sprint workouts and the cardio workouts. But if it were up to me, I would just play to get into shape.
Is there a fitness accomplishment that you're most proud of?
Probably being able to do 5-and-30s. At the beginning of the year when I first started working out five touches in 30 seconds took me 45 seconds or a minute. That was very frustrating, but I got it down to about 28.
Is there an exercise that you hate doing and have to force yourself to do?
I really don’t like the Stairmaster that I had at home and that wasn’t fun. But I made it fun — sometimes, that’s what you have to do—make your worst enemy or worst exercise fun.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into better shape for playing basketball?
Do a combination of cardio, sprints, lifting, and playing. I think you need to touch the ball… I think if you can incorporate using the ball in your training, then it really helps you get a feel for the basketball. But there’s no better way to get into basketball shape than by playing basketball.
Is there a fitness product on t.v. that makes you laugh the most?
There’s one… Lypo-Life — that cream that you rub on and in 15 days, you’re supposed to have leaner, tighter abs.
Is there a certain food or meal that you like to eat before games?
I try not to eat heavy before games. I eat light and I like to be hungry during the game.
What foods do you have a weakness for?
I love candy — Laffy Taffy, Lemon Heads — anything soft and chewy. Now-and-Laters and Dots.
What is your favorite healthy snack?
Pretzels or sugar-free Jello.
When did you start working out, and when were you (or are you now) in the best shape of your life?
[I started working out] in high school. I think I was in the best shape during my second season with the Rockers. I came in at 150 pounds and was in tip-top shape. I would love to get back to that.
How has your fitness routine changed over the years?
Since having the babies, it seems like I have a lot more to carry in the lower bottom. That’s probably the biggest change, and I feel like I’ve lost a lot of quickness and speed.
Photos: (from top): Gregory Shamus/WNBAE/Getty Images, photo courtesy of Helen Darling, Gregory Shamus and Jesse D. Garrabrant/WNBAE/Getty Images